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DESPITE ECONOMY, THIS SLICE OF HISTORY STILL FREE

The annual Country Jubilee at Heritage Village in Largo is Saturday.

After touring the Historic Safety Harbor Church, Sharan Weickelt began walking to the House of the Seven Gables.

It was Sunday at Heritage Village.

"It's a beautiful place to come on a sunny day, and you learn about history while you're here,'' said Weickelt, who lives in Estero. "But there's several reasons why we visited today, and a big plus is that it is free. My grandchild has special needs, and we know there's a possibility we won't be able to stay long when we take outings so we took advantage of not paying admission.''

The free admission is a big draw and Pinellas County plans to keep it that way, said Ellen Babb, the village's director .

"These are tough times for organizations like parks and museums,'' Babb said. "But Pinellas County believes times are tough enough and the administrators want to keep admission free .''

To offset operational costs, on the fourth weekend in October for the last 31 years, Heritage Village has had a Country Jubilee. The event will be held again from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. It is considered the main fundraiser for Pinellas County Historical Society and Heritage Village's educational programs.

More than 100 artisans and crafters have rented space to show off their wares beneath the oak and pine trees. Throughout the day, entertainers, including folk musicians and Native American storytellers will perform.

"It seems like there's always a lot going on throughout Tampa Bay on the fourth Saturday in October, but this event is very well known in the area, and it definitely keeps us going,'' Babb said. "It's always a great way for families to come out and shop for holiday gifts as well as enjoy Heritage Village.''

Also included in the day are tours of the historic homes, demonstrations of traditional crafts like sugar cane grinding, palmetto thatching, pine needle weaving and spinning. Antique cars also will be on display.

Last Sunday, Kevin and Jenifer Ries, along with their two sons, also walked through Heritage Village. "We visit a couple times a year,'' said Kevin Ries. "I always think about how great this place is and how it is so unappreciated.''

"It's a free place to enjoy seeing historical buildings, and, it's also like a theme park with a different kind of theme,'' he said.

FAST FACTS

If you go

What: 31st annual Country Jubilee

When: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N., Largo

Cost: Free. Donations are encouraged with proceeds benefitting the Pinellas County Historical Society.

The back story

Heritage Village, originally called Heritage Park, opened in September 1977 with four historic buildings on 10 acres. Today, the 21-acre site has more than 25 historic structures, including 10 homes, a pair of outhouses, two schools and the church.

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